Let us eschew unsuitable concepts like terrorism
Stabroek News
April 25, 2002

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Dear Editor,

I am appalled at reports I have seen and heard of Dr. Luncheon's characterisation of certain developments within the society as involving terrorism by the PNC/R. There are several reasons for my reaction. First among them is my recollection, as a youth, being introduced by the PPP to the notions that the Soviet Union was the shining exemplar or progress for a country, that its methods of internal organisation should be emulated, and that the ideology which made its development successful and impressive should be embraced and followed. At the same time, the PPP railed against the evils of US imperialism as well as the ideology and practices by which the USA was guided.

The second reason is that for so long in Guyana's history, there has been the inclination on the part of our leaders to look outside of our country for solutions to problems that are ours. In other words, we Guyanese demonstrate a reluctance or an incapacity to look for, and find, indigenous solutions to national problems.

After 9/11 the United States launched a war, a "crusade", against terrorism and enunciated new definitional and operational precepts about terrorism. Our Government appears to have adopted uncritically these new externally determined concepts. This is exactly what Israel's Prime Minister Sharon has done in Palestine with such horrendous consequences.

Under the banner of fighting terrorism by the Palestinians, the Israelis, in the name of self defence, set out to destroy what they called "the infrastructure of terrorism". They conducted a savage and brutal military offensive against the Palestinian people, whose inalienable rights to a homeland in Palestine have for too long been denied. As in the 1982 military attacks on the Palestinians in Beirut, Lebanon (when incidentally Sharon was Minister of Defence of Israel) the Israelis have again demonstrated their capacity to use terrorism as an instrument of state policy. I trust that the Israeli methods will not be applied in Guyana to deal with the perceived terrorists.

With Dr Luncheon's pronouncement about terrorism in Guyana, one can ask whether the next concept to be imported for use here is that of "rogue", as used by others in relation to states, but applied in our case to villages and communities. Which will be the first, is it Buxton or Albion. We in Guyana have suffered enough travail for "pollying" (shades of the parrot of which we have many) the ideas and precepts of others. Let us eschew unsuitable conceptual constructs, the use of which in our circumstances can legitimately invite the accusation of opportunism.

On the issue of terrorism in Guyana, many of us have experience and knowledge of terrorism in its pre 9/11 definitions and manifestations. Those who do not know or have forgotten can consult the appropriate records. My mind goes back to the time when the Son Chapman was bombed on the Demerara River with grievous loss of life; when a school bus full of children was attacked and bombed on the East Coast Demerara; when the Abraham family was brutally murdered by the fire bombing of their house; when canefields were burnt and bridges and buildings destroyed. I hope that such dastardly acts will never occur in Guyana again.

The third reason for my reaction is that Dr Luncheon did not direct attention to the conduct of the police in Guyana. He did not address the question of professional standards. Dr Luncheon has a formidable reputation as a medical practitioner. I wonder if it is possible for him to regard the Guyanese society as a patient and to diagnose its ailments. If so, would one of those ailments be a police force which in part is not functioning properly and is therefore in need of treatment? There is a widespread belief that standards in the police force have fallen. I have the feeling that a significant section of the citizenry of this country has lost confidence in the police force to perform as its motto says - to protect and to serve. Do Dr Luncheon and the government share this feeling? If so, can they announce what constructive action will be taken to modernise the force and its operational techniques thereby making respect for and confidence in it more widely expressed in Guyana?

I ask myself the troubling question: what accounts for the emergence of the kind of analysis and vision such as that given by Dr. Luncheon? Maybe the environment in which we live is intellectually claustrophobic; and some people are so restricted in their encounters that they are trapped in intellectual cul-de-sacs, fed and nurtured on endlessly recycled ideas: a situation which is not dissimilar to inbreeding which leads to the weakening of the species over time.

I must confess that when I listen to Dr Luncheon's press briefings/conferences, I oft times have difficulty following his complex articulations. Not so when he speaks on a political platform. Another noticeable feature of Dr Luncheon's television appearances, as well as some of his public utterances on matters of state, is the impression of arrogance conveyed, accompanied sometimes by a posture oozing the confidence of power. One such occasion was during the PPP/PNC Herdmanston sponsored talks when Dr Luncheon said that Lance Carberry was not his equal. In this general respect, I have sometimes thought that Dr. Luncheon could benefit from representing Guyana at international meetings and conferences. At such encounters, he would have to contend with views and positions different from his own and to operate in environments where the power relations would not necessarily be similar to what he experiences in Guyana. In order to carry out his mandate successfully, the authority of his office would not be enough. He will have to use persuasion and establish links based on earned solidarity in order to attract adherents to his cause. Further, such involvement can provide opportunities for widening the intellectual panorama.

A word on the general condition of our society. It is now trite to observe that our society is deeply fractured. I dearly wish that a Guyanese fairy God mother/person would wave a wand and point us to the way to consensus building, compromise and reconciliation. This is the only way to cure the political and other ills of our society.

Finally, I wish to say that I have expressed the foregoing views as a Guyanese who has always been unyielding in his patriotism and who has never been beholden to any foreign power.

Yours faithfully,

Rashleigh E. Jackson, O.R.